Bersani rejects Monti ultimatum, won't drop left-wing SEL

SEL leader Vendola says 'incompatible' with outgoing premier

Bersani rejects Monti ultimatum, won't drop left-wing SEL

Rome, February 6 - Centre-left leader Pier Luigi Bersani on Wednesday rejected an ultimatum from outgoing Premier Mario Monti to drop his alliance with the left-wing SEL group. Bersani and Monti, who is standing on a reform platform backed by centrist parties, made overtures to each other on Tuesday, with political pundits saying Bersani is likely to win the February 24-25 election but may not have a working majority in parliament. But on Wednesday former European commissioner Monti suggested Bersani's party, the Democratic Party, would have to dump SEL to be able to enter a post-election pact with him. "I imagine that if Bersani is interested in cooperating with the forces that I represent, as he said he is, he will have to make choices inside his pole," said Monti, who took over the helm of an emergency administration of unelected technocrats in November 2011. Bersani, who has seen the centre left's once big lead in the polls whittled down to around 4-5% in recent weeks by ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi's centre right, responded that this was out of the question. "My alliance is my alliance and no one touches it," Bersani said. Bersani also came under pressure from the opposite direction on Wednesday when SEL leader Nichi Vendola warned him not to consider allying with Monti. Vendola, who is also the governor of Puglia, told Bersani that he and Monti were "incompatible". "I hope Bersani does not want to take the responsibility of breaking the centre-left alliance," added Vendola, whose party was staunchly opposed to Monti's emergency technocrat government unlike Bersani's Democratic Party, which supported it. "A vote for the SEL is an insurance policy for centre-left supporters. It's a guarantee that there won't be the heavy influence of Monti".

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